“Is Colorado’s population growing faster than we can handle? Is our quality of life at risk? Is it time to update our tax code to meet the competing needs of our state?”
Lisa Weil, Great Education Colorado, Executive Director
Lisa Weil asked the questions above in a February email. I have been wondering about these very issues, and as I meet with community members, I discover that they also are wondering about these issues. Education is my vocation, and therefore, I find myself often explaining issues pertinent to education. Colorado’s “negative factor” is an issue that frequently needs explaining.
According to the Denver Post, September 21, 2015, “The negative factor in the school funding formula allows the state to pay school districts less than the formula calculates they should get.” What this means for Lewis-Palmer School District specifically is that the district has lost over $39 million in total revenue since 2009, revenue that according to the state education funding formula should be paid to LPSD. All Colorado schools are underfunded. Currently, Colorado is $834 million in arrears to school districts. Colorado spends $2,685 below the national average per pupil (adjusted for regional cost differences) according to Ed Week, 2017 Quality Counts. With these funds, LPSD students could have benefitted from more robust classroom technology, upgraded security systems, broader STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) programming, smaller class sizes, newer buses, and our staff could have received more competitive wages.
Addressing this ghastly information stirs up shock and dismay in my listeners – as it does in me. Education funding is a huge issue and concern as Colorado state budget expenses continue to outpace revenue. How do we as invested, concerned citizens appropriately support our next generation, our students, our future? President John Adams wrote in 1785, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expense of it.” What does this look like for you and me today? We can write our state legislators asking that education funding amendments be revised. We can support education funding at local levels. We can educate ourselves and each other about the escalating need.
As educators, as an educated society, we have an obligation to provide quality instruction and learning opportunities to our youth. Colorado superintendents wrote a letter to Governor Hickenlooper in October 2014 stating that “Despite years of low funding levels relative to other states, Colorado’s schools have delivered nationally competitive results as evidenced by our standing on the National Assessment of Education Progress. We are proud of these efforts and our remarkable system efficiency, but our goal is for Colorado’s schools to be globally competitive. Toward that end, we hold that our schools must be adequately resourced to meet that goal.” I hope you will join me and superintendents around our state in finding realistic, tangible solutions for students in our community and our state.